The Dark Lantern

Published By: Crown

Book Category: Fiction, Historical

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Reviewed by Stephanie Boyd

Jane Wilbred takes a new position as the second maid in a London household to escape the injustice of her service in the country for a family who knows of her past. But Jane may have made a poor choice in accepting a position at the Bentley household because it is full of unkind, even manipulative people who also have secrets.

The matriarch of the Bentley family is dying. Second son Robert, who is an enthusiast of the study of anthropometry (the science of identifying criminals by the measurements of certain parts of their bodies), and his wife Mina, have returned home from Paris. Also there is the first son’s widow–he had married without informing the family–and then died in a shipwreck on his way home from India.

There’s a butler who likes his drink more than his job; a cook; Mrs. Bentley’s ladies maid; a first maid who searches through her employer’s things or stands outside of doors to overhear what is going on; a simple scullery maid; and Jane. Everyone has secrets and is less than stellar representatives of the human race. Put them all together and you have an intriguing look at life in a Victorian England household filled with deception and mystery.

Jane is doing more than her share of the work, blackmailed by the first maid who figured out who Jane is, and pressured by the mistress of the house to spy on her fellow servants–or lose her position without a character reference. How can Jane survive in London where she knows no one and her position is becoming intolerable?

I was captivated from the first page of the story and held prisoner all the way to the end, trying to guess what would happen next, who was a good guy and who was a bad guy, and who would survive the obvious coming downfall of the household of a Victorian England family that is teaming with secrets and deception. It is fascinating to watch the plots and plans unravel around the people there. And through it all, poor hardworking, mistreated Jane is just trying to survive.

Armchair Interview says: Although it sounds like a miserable story, it is not. It is a wonderful set of interconnected mysteries that will leave you glad that you don’t have to serve as a servant in Victorian England!

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